If you want to make changes, or even just head more decisively in the direction you’ve chosen, it’s time to turn off that phone, computer, and TV and plan for a better new year! But where do you start? Here are a few ideas I’ve used over time. I’ve organized them depending on the time you can set aside to think things through — one hour, a half day, a whole day.

If you have…

…ONE HOUR. 

Spend 15 minutes praying.
If your mind gets distracted and wanders off (raising my hand over here), write or type your prayers. Briefly jot down 1) the good and bad of 2017, and 2) what you long for most in 2018. Ask God to show you if this is not the same thing He wants for you right now. Ask for His help if it is. Be open to listen to Him going forward.

Define your top three priorities.
Choose the three things you are unwilling to let slide for the long term. For me in 2018 and in every year, it’s my faith, my family, and my future. These priorities guide my practical decisions every single day — from spending time to spending money. Keep them pinned on the desktop of your computer or at the top of your calendar. It makes most choices painfully obvious…sometimes more painfully than others.

Choose free joy every day.
Create a 30-minute spot for simple, free joy every single day this year (time spent on TV and computers doesn’t count!). Take a nap, relax with a cup of tea, walk the block, watch the sunrise or sunset, read a chapter or two of a book, play in the backyard with the kids or the dog, go to bed a half-hour earlier. Do the same thing every day, or do something new every week. Set a daily alarm, and at the end of the year, you’ll have logged more than 180 hours of precious, happy white space. A better year can’t be just about things you’re going to get done. 


…A HALF DAY

Do everything on the One Hour list above, expanding your prayer time to 30 minutes.

Then add…

Set a consistent generosity goal.
Last year, my world got rocked a bit by one simple question: what are you not giving and why? Choose one way you can give of yourself consistently this year — your time, your money, your friendship. Serve monthly at your church or other local organization, sponsor a Compassion Child, schedule a recurring financial gift, quietly support a neighbor in need. Decide now that 2018 will not be all about you.

Pick something you will stop doing.
There is something you are doing (or forcing your kids to do) that is making you miserable, stressing you out, taking up time, draining your wallet, adding to the guilt, and/or causing all the arguments. Just. Stop. If you can’t bring yourself to decide on a permanent change, decide to take a defined break — a month or two or a semester — and see what happens.

Choose twelve projects.
Pick twelve things you never seem to get around to — the room that needs painting, the book that needs reading, the local place you’ve always wanted to visit, the closet that needs cleaning, those photos that need sorting, that outing you’ve been promising your kids. Choose half work stuff and half fun stuff, and pick things that can be done from start to finish in one day.

The most important step: schedule these projects on your 2018 calendar right now, one per month. If you need help, text a friend now and ask them to set the day aside. If you need child care, arrange for it. If you need motivation, plan a reward day soon after your project date, too.

At the end of 2018, you’ll have replaced nagging demands and regrets with good memories, and you’ll have created the kind of joy that comes only through intention and work done well.


…A WHOLE DAY

Do everything in the One Hour and Half Day lists above, expanding your prayer time to 45 minutes of personal prayer and praying through scripture.

If your 2017 was pretty great, try reading and praying Psalm 16 and Psalm 27. If 2017 was pretty crappy and you’d like 2018 to head in a different direction, try reading Psalm 57, Psalm 25, and Psalm 30. No matter what, wrap it up with a Psalm of thankfulness by reading Psalm 104.

Then add these two things:

Enter everything on your 2018 calendar.
I mean everything you can think of. Download school calendars and slot those dates in. Enter birthdays and milestones. Mark down important dates in your spiritual life — holy celebrations and church events. Choose your vacation weeks early, and plan weekends now for school shopping and Christmas shopping and other important traditions.

If you have enough time, back up and enter planning dates for these events, too. Want to take a family trip over spring break? Write “book beach condo” sometime in January. Want a new dress for Easter? Add “shop for Easter outfits” a few weeks before. If you constantly find yourself caught by surprise, building this habit will give back more life than any other thing you do this year (e.g. if you write down “take cookies to the class party” on a Friday, it saves you one giant personal meltdown if you write “buy cookies for the class party” two days before. Trust me on this.)

Note: I also encourage you to mark one weekend off each month now for “nothing.” When too much life comes calling, you’ll “already have plans.”

Choose ONE challenge goal for 2018.
Pick just one goal that you really want to accomplish,* and tell the other Goal Clutter in your mind “I’m sorry, baby, but it’s not your year.” You can only do so much. It’ll all be ok.

Then, spend two hours breaking that big goal down into

• monthly goals

• weekly goals

• super do-able bite-size daily practices. I find that I can sustain a big addition to my life only if it takes 30 minutes or less per day.

More tips and thoughts for you in goal setting:

• Be bold, but realistic.

• Search the Internet for suggestions from people who’ve accomplished your goal.

• Schedule these goals and practices on your calendar.

• Start as small as you can and add a little more once you’ve got that part down.

• Set alarms and reminders.

• Enlist a friend for accountability.

*Time for some Hard-Fought Failure Wisdom from Kelly: If you don’t want to do something, you won’t. It’s just that simple. Pick something you honestly want to do, or else make your challenge goal this year about figuring out how to want your goal. That might take prayer, books, a mentor, counseling, accountability, or all of the above. Also be open to the answer that the world’s current ideals and goals might not ever be yours.

Happy planning! Love you, friends.

If you want more joy, you have to plan for it.

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